Tuesday, May 27, 2008

exlcusive!: Interview with Rainn Wilson

“The Office” star sits down at the Sasquatch! Festival with Nick to talk about music, his new movie “The Rocker,” and UW’s parking fine conspiracy…

Photo Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

What’s your favorite act so far?

I got to introduce The National yesterday and I just love that band. It was really cool to see them live because I only know them from their CDs. But, you know like most bands they just really take it up a notch live. It’s really interesting stuff.

Big music person?

I am, yeah. I’m a big music fan. I was just talking to Cold War Kids over here from L.A. and they’re one of my favorite bands too.

Very cool. So I guess, music, and what your new movie is… did you ever have the rock star dream as a kid?

You know, I never did as a kid. But it’s interesting because they always say that “all actors secretly want to be rock stars and all rock stars secretly want to be actors” and now that I’ve been more of an actor, now that my career’s taken off more then I start to have secret rock star dreams. But I’m not going to go that way, I promise you here and now I’m not going to record an album, it’s not going to happen. But I’m a big music fan and I love being able to meet the bands and see them live and kind of get to know the musicians. I just love what they do. When you see a group of people on a stage just with some instruments and then they’re able over two hours to just transport an audience to a whole other plane of existence, it’s really cool.

So I got a chance to catch “The Rocker” last week, and I liked it a lot. What did you think of the final product?

Yeah I really liked the movie, I think it’s really cool. I think it’s a really sweet rock and roll comedy, if there is such a thing. It’s kind of like a fun for the whole family rock and roll journey, with great characters and just a great comic cast. Everyone in the cast is really top notch and brings something.

How did you get into the role and get pulled into the project?

You know I met with the producers of it, and they were big fans of the office, and of course every script in L.A. goes to the biggest names first and go rejected by all of the A-list people — I think it got passed on by Jack Black and Will Farrell — and then they went to me. There’s actually a pretty funny story because the head of FOX was not going to green light it. He’s like, “You know the guy who plays Dwight, he’s an uptight guy, a weirdo in “The Office.” I don’t know, the rock and roll thing, I just don’t get it.” And then, that very week, the episode of “The Office” played where Michael and I are on the roof and we throw watermelons off the roof and we’re rocking out and playing air guitar and jamming out. The producer went into his office and said “Give me 17 seconds” and opens his laptop and plays 17 seconds of me and Steve rocking out on the roof and the head of FOX says “Alright, I get it, do the movie.”

You rocked those drums pretty hard in the movie — have you played any music before?

I played a lot of music growing up. I was in a lot of bands. I mean I was in a rock band in high school but I was also in “band” band and marching band and orchestra and played saxophone and bassoon, took piano lessons. So I knew how to read music and I kind of learned the songs from the musical charts.

So were you actually playing?

That’s me actually playing all through it. We recorded some of it, there’s going to be a soundtrack. Teddy Geiger, the lead singer kid, he’s a recording artist and that’s his real vocals. He’s got a great voice. It should be a good soundtrack.

How was working with the cast?

They were great. It was an insane shoot, we were shooting 6 days a week, and we averaged about 14 to 15 hours a day. And most of it was at night, so we would be called in at 4 or 5 p.m. and get out at like 8 or 9 in the morning. It was completely cockamamie. Mayhem. I look at some of the scenes in that movie and just remember shooting it at seven in the morning when I’d been up for like 20 hours, and I just look so friggin’ haggard and worn down, and I’m like “oh right because I got four hours of sleep and it was seven in the morning.”

And how about kissing Christina?

It was American male’s dream, and it was a dream come true. Now I can die happy.

Beautiful! So tell me about “Bonzai Shadow Hands.”

You know, it’s a script that I’m writing. I’m almost done with the second draft, and Jason Reitman is producing it and hopefully directing it. It’s cool, it’s about a down-and-out ninja, alcoholic, living in a halfway house in the San Fernando Valley. It’s kind of like the most fucked up karate kid you can imagine.

Are you doing more writing?

Yeah, there’s actually another script I’m working on with another UW alum. This guy named Matt Ross, from Big Love, I was in acting class with him and my current wife. We’re writing a script called “Renaissance Men,” and it’s a comedy set in a renaissance fair. We used to paly a lot of D&D and fencing and stage combat and we kind of drew on all that. So yeah I’m doing a lot more writing and maybe turning to directing too at some point.

Alright, well I have to talk a little "Office." Are you ever afraid of being pigeonholed as Dwight?

Sure, I mean I think any actor is afraid of being pigeonholed for what they’re best known for. I think that’s a very common thing and I think actors who don’t have a lot of range should be scared but I come from theater and it’s all about the process of acting and transforming. I feel like I transform into Dwight, not to get all artsy-fartsy about it, but when you do the haircut and the polyester suit and the annoying attitude, that’s not me it’s the character I’m playing. I think that I’ll have a long career with a lot of different types of roles.

What’s stuff like with John [Krasinski], when you don’t have to be rivals? And with Steve [Carell] and Jenna [Fischer] and B.J. [Novak]?

We all get along great, hang out a lot. John and I play a lot of Xbox together. Jenna and I play poker sometimes. We have a blast, it’s really like a family. There’s no weird rivalries or anything like that, it’s pretty cool.

Please tell me that Dwight and Angela are getting back together?

No comment. But I think we might see a Dwight-Andy kind of man love thing next season. I would not be surprised if that happened.

What’s your favorite UW memory?

Oh boy, I have a lot of them. I owed so much in parking fines to the University of Washington, I hope they never find me. I would just find ways to drive out of the parking lots without having to go through the arm. I would drive through the bushes in my old 1974 Volvo and just come over the curb. I just got countless tickets and never paid them. It must be now in the thousands that I owe UW and they’re never going to see a dime. They also offered me to be the commencement speaker last year and then pulled it. Who was the commencement speaker, it was some politician guy.

I actually can’t remember.

Yeah, it was that memorable. I think they found out about my parking fines and were like “Hell no, we’re not going to give that guy the commencement address. He’s going to set a bad example.”